The Fish Blog: 3-2 Win at #2 UCLA
Aug. 27, 2012
17 regular season matches lie ahead for New Mexico Lobo Soccer. We returned from Los Angeles Saturday afternoon, in time for more soccer! Two big games were played on Sunday: U-11 Vipers and U-12 Riot. My nine and eleven-year-old daughters were fired up for their early season matches. In full uniform two hours before kickoff, firing balls off the walls of our dining room. Only a matter of time before they will need to learn a trade: plastering skills and window replacement will be their best bet.
When you come home from a road trip with a win, life is good and you can really enjoy time with your family. When you come home from a loss, the walls are coming down on top of you and it's hard to be a "fully present" husband and dad. The happiest people during our undefeated season last year were my family. I was in a pretty good mood the entire season. Not sure if I recommend marrying a coach.
The other big match this weekend, was Lobos versus Bruins. Season opener against UCLA at Drake Stadium in the center of Westwood...images of John Wooden, Arthur Ashe, Kareem, Jimmy Connors and other sports icons adorned the walls outside our locker room... national television audience... UCLA men's soccer; winners of four national titles, 29 straight NCAA appearances, producer of the greatest number of professional soccer players, 2011 NCAA semi-finalist...#2 pre-season ranking in NSCAA poll.... Our boys were excited to play, but were relaxed and confident that we would come away victorious. What a great feeling to lead a group of young men into a battle most would consider "an inferno with slim odds of coming out the victor". Our team is fearless, unified, confident and prepared. They are a group of warriors who live for the opportunity to face "the best competition they can find". We flew into LAX late Thursday morning and faced our greatest challenge straight away, Los Angeles freeway traffic. Seven miles took us an hour. This would be a constant theme throughout our trip. An hour fighting demonic traffic to the stadium for Thursdays training session and an hour fighting the same relentless opponent getting to Friday's match. A very challenging trip logistically.
#6 LOBOS VS #2 UCLA: FRIDAY, AUGUST 24, 2012: 7:00 PM LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA
The message to the team was unity, confidence, compactness, relentless pressure and mental and physical toughness. It was a wonderful night for soccer with an excellent playing surface and energized crowd. Pre-game activities were choreographed to the second because of the live television broadcast, but kickoff took place without a hitch. The opening minutes saw both sides feeling each other out with direct play and conservative attacks. UCLA was committed to playing out of the back, while our approach was to play a bit more direct: get the ball into their half and attack off seconds and press when we gave the ball away.
The Bruins saw more of the ball in the early going and had the better of play. Chances for both sides came in transition, and I thought we had the best chance early with Michael Calderon barely missing the net off a tremendous Sandoval pass. Patrick Poblete was solid in goal for us. This was Pat's first collegiate start and what a way to be initiated! With two minutes remaining in the first half, we lost our focus/froze up while attacking and being the recipient of a reckless challenge we thought was a "for sure" foul. No whistle and UCLA maturely countered and slipped their right wing behind our left back. Great service and finish...1-0 Bruins going into halftime.
We remained on the field for halftime and emphasized our need to stay composed, stay compact, press mercilessly, win all challenges and get our attacking players in dangerous positions. Looking into the boys' eyes, I could see confidence and excitement... We were motivated and up for the challenge. The match was a tale of two halves. The Lobos were on fire from the whistle. Twelve minutes into the half, right back, Levi Rossi played a beautiful ball far post to Devon Sandoval...great header...1-1 and it was ON!
Three minutes later Sandoval's flick to the back post with Blake Smith slotting it home... 2-1 Lobos. Seemed like we had a hold of the game. Soccer is a game of momentum and the elation of scoring often leads to an opening for your opponent.
Less than two minutes after taking the lead, we committed a sloppy foul 35 yards from our goal. An early season miscue and we failed to mark the runners on the ensuing direct kick. Great driven ball into the box and a world-class header from twelve yards leveled the match at 2-2. What an emotional roller coaster!
We settled and once again took control of the match. Confidence was high and 13 minutes later (75th minute), Sandoval notched his second goal of the match.... 3-2 Lobos and we were pressing for a fourth. The last 15 minutes were tense, with Poblete marvelous in the net. We had our chances to put the game away, but failed to "seal the deal". A barrage of shots from UCLA in the final minute were thwarted by Poblete and, we came away with a tremendous victory over an excellent Bruin team. Great way to kick off the season! GoLobos.com game recap.
Devon Sandoval named to National team of the week.
I can't tell you how proud and encouraged I am about this team. Our boys play for each other and for all our supporters. We are back on the road this Thursday to Tulsa, Oklahoma to face the University of Tulsa and #16 SMU. Two great challenges and we will be ready!
Thanks for your support and GO LOBOS!
To read The Fish Blog in its entirety, click here.